I Will Have a Most Glorious Time Riding My Bicycle in Approved Areas Under Close Supervision in Wonderful North Korea
I have ridden a bike in the French Alps. I have ridden a bike in rural Africa. I have even ridden a bike in New York (terrifying) and Alamosa, Colorado (less terrifying).
These are all, however, pale substitutes for where — in my heart of hearts — I really truly want to ride my bike:
I know, I know. You’re saying to me, “Fatty, get your head out of the clouds. Everyone wants to ride their bike in North Korea.”
“You don’t understand,” I reply to you, “I don’t just want to ride a bike with a Korean bicycle tour, where I can pay about the amount of money I would for a house down payment to be carefully escorted around on selected, pre-approved roads, taking in statue after statue after statue of a tyrant, on a clunky hybrid bike.”
“Wow,” you no doubt say to me now, “That does indeed sound like the adventure of a lifetime. May I join you on this trip?”
“Alas,” I conclude in our imaginary-yet-very-realistic conversation, “I am unaware of any such cycling tour.”
Or at least I wasn’t aware of any such cycling tour . . . until I got the most awesome promotional email ever in the history of promotional email!
Invitation to Indescribable Adventure
The email begins with the following video, which I encourage you to watch, right now, with your computer’s volume set to eleven:
I don’t know about you, but my reaction to this video was as visceral as it was cerebral, and I found myself watching it over and over. Just in case you don’t have time to watch it as much as I have, however, allow me to show you some highlights:
Why is there nobody but tourists on the road?
Standing around after unloading bikes is a top feature of this tour.
Why is that guy in the background pushing his bike?
Don’t worry, you’ll have ample time to stand around, talking with other tourists.
Why do there continue to be nobody but tourists on the road?
Yay! They’re unloading bikes!
Why would this barren hill be included in a promotional video? (And also, why is there nobody but one lone tourist on the road?)
A rare moment on the tour, featuring both nobody on the road but tourists, and standing around.
Do I even need to say anything here?
Seriously, how could one not want to go on such an adventure?
The North Korean Equivalent of a Chorus of Angels
Of course, the images are only part of the allure of this video. The soundtrack is what really moves it from the “indescribably elegant” category squarely into “sublime.”
What’s the story behind this — your new favorite — song? Well, the email I received explains:
This song is a massive hit in the DPRK, everyone in North Korea knows the words and it’s even been featured in the mass games. Like all great DPRK pop culture there is a deeper ideological message and your ears ain’t deceiving you, they are indeed singing “CNC” – which as we all know stands for “Computer Numerical Control” – go light industry! In case that raised more questions than it answered, you can read more here.
So, in answer to your question: it’s a super-popular song that sounds like it was recorded in the Fifties, about a technology that’s been around since the Forties.
Check out the lyrics.
If you set your heart on anything
We follow the program making the Songun era machine technology’s pride; our style CNC technology
CNC – Juche industry’s power!
CNC – an example of self-strength and reliance!
Following the General’s leading path
Breakthrough the cutting edge
Arirang! Arirang! The people’s pride is high
Let’s build a science-technology great power
Happiness rolls over us like a wave
Admit it: after reading and hearing this song, you want to sing along. Like these people did, in this completely spontaneous and not-state-arranged singalong that a tourist just happened to have captured:
It’s also possible to see and hear this song at the Mass Games, which you will have the opportunity to see pretty much every night you are in North Korea:
Or, frankly, you’ll hear it everywhere and anywhere you go. Which is awesome, because it has been decided by our great leader that you will never tire of this song.
Glorious Rides and Activities
When we (for at this point my confidence is incredibly high that you will wish to go on this selfsame tour) go to North Korea for the cycling tour, we will never, ever run out of amazing things to do and see. Here is a small selection from the official itinerary of what we shall do:
- Have a pre-tour briefing!
- Go through immigration and customs and be assigned
- Visit the Mansudae Grand Monument and lay down flowers at the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il!
- Visit a subway!
- See the Arch of Triump, where Kim Il Sung gave a speech to the Korean people after the surrender of the Japanese!
- Visit the Victorieous Fatherland Liberation War Museum, where we can see the USS Pueblo, which was totally not unarmed and in international waters when captured.
- Visit Kim Il Sung Square!
- Visit the Party Foundation Monument!
- Visit Janam Hill, where there’s a statue of Kim Il Sung!
- Visit Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun, where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state!
- Visit the Youth Hero Highway — where, five days into the tour, we will ride our bikes for the first time. For a flat 25Km on a deserted highway!
- Visit the West Sea Barrage, an 8Km dam, which was personally overseen by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il!
- Probably see a lot more statues and amazing things all about Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il! But I haven’t quite been able to make myself finish reading the itinerary because the trip sounds far too awesome!
And the great thing about this cycling tour is, there won’t be too much cycling! From the itinerary:
If you are a keen cyclist who is looking to cycle long distances every day and will not be happy otherwise, then this tour is not for you. If you are flexible and happy to cycle whatever distance is possible and at whatever pace is possible then we welcome you with open arms!
In fact, the only thing I’m disappointed in with this incredible tour is that I can’t take more of them! Because other amazing tours are available, including:
- Tax Abolition Day Tour: Stay in the unique and rarely visited Ryanggang (Two Rivers) Hotel while in Pyongyang. This is one of the only ways to spend St. Patrick’s day in a country with not one Irish Pub – bring your own Guinness for that night!
- May Day Long Tour: “Don’t believe it’s possible to tango with a tipsy North Korean grandmother in a busy park? We’ll prove it to you on this trip!”
- Kim Il Sung 101st Birthday Tour 1. Or perhaps the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 2. Or maybe the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 3. Or even the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 4.
Meanwhile, though, I’m stoked to head out and ride my bike and stand around with tourists in North Korea, on the bikes they will provide us (Hunter 2.0s or North-Korean-made mountain bikes):
This cycling tour is going to be awesome.